UPDATE 1-Transocean rejects Anadarko claim of force majeure

Tue Jun 15, 2010 6:27pm EDT

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* Anadarko declared force majeure on total of three rigs

* Transocean follows Noble in rejecting Anadarko claim

* Transocean says other customers mulling force majeure

* Anadarko shares drop 2.2 pct in after-hours trading

* Ensco: GoM events may have "material" effect on results (Adds Ensco statement, Anadarko shares, more from Transocean)

SAN FRANCISCO, June 15 (Reuters) - Transocean Ltd RIGN.S (RIG.N) has rejected a claim of force majeure by Anadarko Petroleum Corp (APC.N) on a deepwater rig in the Gulf of Mexico due to the U.S. deepwater drilling moratorium.

Transocean, with 14 rigs in the Gulf of Mexico, said contracts varied in their treatment of an "actual" force majeure event, and "several customers" had indicated they might declare it, but it was pushing back against this trend.

"We do not believe that a force majeure event exists as a result of the drilling moratorium," Transocean said in its latest fleet update on Tuesday.

Anadarko, part owner of the blown-out well gushing oil into the Gulf of Mexico, said nearly two weeks ago it had declared force majeure on three rigs in the region after the United States halted deepwater activity there. [ID:nN03221734]

One of those rigs was the Discoverer Spirit, owned by Transocean, which said it had rejected the claim and was currently in discussions with Anadarko.

Anadarko shares fell 2.2 percent to $43.70 in after-hours trading.

Force majeure relieves a company from liability when it cannot fulfill contractual obligations because of natural and unavoidable catastrophes.

On May 27, the U.S. government ordered a temporary halt to drilling at 33 deepwater exploration rigs and extended a ban on new drilling by six months as part of a broader response to the catastrophic BP Plc (BP.L) (BP.N) oil spill. [ID:nLDE64R00P]

Noble Corp (NE.N), a rig contractor based in Switzerland along with Transocean, also rejected Anadarko's force majeure claim on one of its rigs.

Analysts say the third rig on which Anadarko sought to declare it was owned by Diamond Offshore Drilling Inc (DO.N), while Anadarko kept another rig working, owned by London-based Ensco Plc (ESV.N).

Ensco said in a fleet update on Tuesday it was in talks with customers to discuss contingency plans in light of the recent events in the Gulf of Mexico that could have a "material adverse effect" on the company's results.

It confirmed its new deepwater rig, ENSCO 8502, was in the process of commissioning to start work for Nexen Inc NXY.TO in the Gulf of Mexico in mid-August.

But Nexen had said on Monday the drilling moratorium would delay some of its work in the Gulf of Mexico. [ID:nN14220072]

BP owns 65 percent of the well that ruptured on April 20, while Anadarko owns 25 percent. Transocean owned the rig that sank after the well blowout.

Anadarko was not the first to seek force majeure after the moratorium; On June 1, Cobalt International Energy Inc (CIE.N) declared it on another Diamond-owned rig. [ID:nSGE6500HH] (Reporting by Braden Reddall; Editing by Matthew Lewis and Richard Chang)

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